Another year gone!

Well that’s it for 2019!

As the boxes of mangoes are opened (sorry, couldnt resist) heres a late 19th century Christmas card, with a housemaid (can she even breathe in that corset?) carrying in the pudding under the mistletoe.

The back carries the simple pencilled inscription “mary / To maman.” I actually found it used as a bookmark in a second hand cookbook I bought many years ago. You can discover more about early Australian Christmas cards here, in a story by Megan Martin.

At this time as well we think of all those fighting the terrible fires around Sydney and throughout New South Wales, giving up so much to defend the homes of neighbours and strangers, our prescious wildlife and bushland.

We’re taking a break for a few weeks, and will be back in late January. Merry Christmas, Happy 3rd day of Hannukah, merry Solstice for the 21st, and Io Saturnalia, have a great holiday and enjoy the pavlova and mangoes!

Cheers, Scott and Jacqui

A box of Christmas mangoes

This week we welcome guest author Dr. Madeline Shanahan to the blog. A historian and archaeologist, Madeline was a guest speaker at this year’s Spring Harvest festival at Elizabeth Farm, where she talked with Jacqui about spices. Earlier this year her new book – Christmas Food and Feasting – was published, looking at how the concept of the ‘Christmas dinner’ evolved, both in Britain and throughout the English-speaking world. So pull up a crate of mangoes and carve up the pudding as we dive in! [Eccentric images supplied by yours truly]

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A stewpan. Detail from Francatelli's cooks guide and advertiser, page 5. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

When you read 19th century cookbooks the terminology can be unfamiliar. Take this definition of stewing: “the act or operation of seething, or boiling slowly.” [1] Boiling sure, but ‘seething’?

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Under pressure

Sheep or pig bones excavated at the Mint. Sydney Living Museums. Photo (c) Jamie North

Eagle-eyed reader Ariela asked about an usual item listed in the ‘third drawer down’ – Slacks patent digester! So chop up your turnips and gather those leftover bones – this week we’re in for for some thrifty high pressure cooking.

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The third drawer down

Spoons and ladles from Francatelli's Cook's Guide and Advertiser. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

While we’re mainly looking at the pots and pans in this series on the colonial batterie de cuisine, it’s a good time for a diversion into all the miscellaneous bits and pieces in a kitchen – all those things we keep in the ‘third drawer down’.

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Under the hammer

The kitchen at Vaucluse House. Detail of photo (c) Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

One of the best documentary sources for kitchens and dining rooms in the colonial period isn’t actually family archives – but newspaper and auction advertisements. Individuals leaving the colony after a few years – or facing ‘pecuniary embarrassment’ – would typically sell up, so lists of household effects are fairly common. Larger sales warranted their own catalogues, which could be broken down room by room; for a curator these are a goldmine of information as to furnishings and paraphernalia, artworks and even what books were in personal libraries.

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Polly put the kettle on, and let’s have… fish?

Poached snapper in the kitchen at Vaucluse House._Detail of photograph (c) Cath Muscat for Sydney Living Museums


Last year we talked about those confusing and interchangeable words baking and roasting, and got to grip with table- and soup spoons. They’re far from the only confusing words used in the historic kitchen and household, so today I’m starting a series of posts looking at the vast range of pots and pans you can see in a historic kitchen – and what exactly they were called and used for. Continue reading

Then and now – the dining room at Elizabeth Bay House part 2

Detail of the the dining room at Elizabeth Bay House 11 August 1987. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums. Photo Andrew Payne Photographix

This week we’re back at Elizabeth Bay House, in one of Sydney’s grandest dining rooms. After the departure of the Macleays, Macarthur-Onslows and Michaelises, its years as a reception house and then as flats, the ‘Lion of Sydney’ began its new life as a house museum. But, as this continuing ‘Then and Now’ series shows, it certainly wasn’t without controversy!

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